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Since the death of Princess Diana, 'paparazzi' has been a dirty word among politicians, the public and even the rest of the media. Tessa Mayes asked some top paparazzi about the view from the other side of the camera

Paparazzi snap back

Miguel Arana is a Spanish paparazzo who has worked in Spain and Britain for 20 years

'Photographers have been working for 150 years, since photography was invented. There are millions of us, millions of magazines and there's never been a problem. A photographer has never been accused of being responsible for somebody's death.

'We are not responsible for Diana's death. Diana was followed many times but nobody ever put the life of a royal at risk. If a terrorist was shooting at you, perhaps you would drive fast, but a photographer is never risking anybody's life. Her story was an open story so there was no need to hide anything or to go at that speed.

'Photographers don't go near to cars because you can kill yourself. You don't photograph a car moving, because even if your flash is against the window you can't get a picture. You end up photographing a reflection of yourself. You never flash a moving car because you could blind the driver. I've chased Diana many times but when the driver gets sporty, you back off.

'In Spain, the king will never run away from you. Diana was the only royal who would run or hide in a taxi. All you are doing is triggering the hunting instinct because it's the picture you want. Death will always be worse than a photographer taking your picture.

'Any press photographer in the world is a paparazzi. From the moment you are sent to cover a story and a person is killed, you take a photograph without asking their consent. You are writing history, but visually. If we are only allowed to take official photographs then there would be no news, so we have to take pictures independently.

'Not every paparazzi is a press photographer. Some have no training, no morals, don't have the right equipment and no contacts. These are the cowboys who sell their photographs cheaply. I call myself a paparazzi as a general term. I've photographed Ted Heath for Hello! magazine and I was the official photographer at Paul Gascoigne's wedding. They wanted the paparazzi feeling.

'If the paparazzi are restricted, it is the worst thing that could happen in a democracy. It's done in places like Mexico, Columbia or Franco's Spain. We are the eyes of society. People can live their lives knowing that we keep an eye on what's going on. The only ones who would gain from restrictions are those with something to hide.'

Warren Johnson is a paparazzi photographer

'I think Diana deserved a medal; I wouldn't have put up with all the media attention every single day. But she was a bit fickle. She would court the media if she thought she could get on the front page. She was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. She wasn't this squeaky clean person that the general public thinks. Nobody wants to hear that now. I suppose they want to forget the bad bits and I can understand that.

'Now our name is shit. Friends and family have a go at me in a jokey way. But I didn't want to see her dead. We're not heartless people. And I made money out of her.

'I do sport, fashion, hard news and pap. After all the hype to get media attention, once people get famous then you are unwelcome. That's when pictures are worth more. I'm proud of a lovely picture of the Spice Girls on Red Nose day that I took when I had to sneak into the theatre with the camera down my sleeve.

'Even on invited events you are abused. We were invited to Hamley's to cover Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley. It was chaos because the shop was full of people, mums and children were being pushed and shoved. I was threatened by his security guard when I pointed this out.

'There is a mark you don't cross over but in the heat of the moment, with the adrenaline going, it is easy to overstep that mark. It's difficult to step back when everyone else is taking pictures. One photographer does it, another and then everyone does it. It's not a mob thing. If you are working as a stringer and the newspaper knows you are getting pictures it's a load of bollocks to say that they wouldn't want you to get certain shots. They'd have a go at me if I didn't. Your name would be shit and you don't get any work the next day.'

Ian Richards, former paparazzi photographer and co-owner of Absolute Picture Agency which handles paparazzi work

'Paparazzi are those people who hang around restaurants, hotels, working in the streets looking for celebrities. Personally I've never been a car chaser because I don't want to write my car off, it wouldn't be worth the picture. Money depends on whether that photograph sells and sells, it depends on the market.

'It's all very well people calling us names but what about all those people who buy Hello! every week? If the photographers weren't out there you would have a boring set of journals. Banning the paparazzi would be, in a way, censorship. These celebrities love to invite you to take their picture. They say "tell your people to buy my book, see my film or support my charity". They love the publicity until they are going out and then it's different. Diana would invite certain media along for her own purpose. When you start doing that you're increasing their interest in you.

'I'm not sure the paparazzi think about the rest of Fleet Street in the way that they think about the paparazzi. Paparazzi just probably prefer the freedom of being a freelance without some editor shouting at them.'

Andrew Murray, Australian freelance photographer

'We would follow Diana at a distance because as soon as she knew you were following her, she would lose you. If the driver was stupid - cutting corners, going through red lights - then we would have to do that because we're doing a job. I got an exclusive of Diana and her boys at the Harbour Club by going round the back. Four newspapers wanted that picture.

'Experienced photographers cover the royals properly with long lenses to get a nicer picture. It's the kids who do stupid things, because they are hungry. It's got worse with pushing and shoving among photographers. There's one who, ever since he got an exclusive of a pop star, has been bashing other photographers out the way. He's a complete nuisance, but generally we all work together.

'People want to know what's going on. Women love all the gossip in women's magazines. We are made into the scapegoats but everyone is to blame. The work will continue once this all dies down. For a while, there'll be softer focus stuff like the Spice Girls by a pool rather than shot from over a fence. But photographers will feel the pinch, although the price for photos has been going down for ages.

'People in the media are all slagging each other off now. A TV cameraman walked in front of me as I was trying to get a shot of the flowers outside the palace. I said 'are you blind mate?'. TV crews don't care about stills. There is a rivalry there. After Diana's death we were being filmed by TV and it looked like photographers were the only ones around. But of course they were there too, but nobody gets to see pictures of the TV cameras. What will be lasting, a great picture or television coverage of the funeral? The one great picture, but we'll still get abused. People should think before they speak.

'When people say the paparazzi killed her, the fact is that you can kill somebody by moving them. You don't touch somebody if you don't know what you're doing. Do you see photographers helping people after rail crashes? No, because the ambulance people know what to do with the injured whereas the photographers are doing their job by taking pictures. The Paris event was the same except for the fact that she was Princess Diana.

'What stinks is that people were trying to make money of photographs of her in the car. As a news photographer, I'm curious to see the pictures but I wouldn't wish any member of the public who loved her to see them. End of story.' *

Reproduced from LM issue 105, November 1997

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